John Pappalardo

Cape Cod Life  /  Annual Life 2020 /

Writer: Brenna Collins

CEO of Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance \\ Protecting the future of local maritime industry

At the heart of Cape Cod’s culture is a bustling commercial fishing industry that dates back many generations. Local men and women set out to sea to bring back the delights that play such a large role in our coastal cuisine. For the past two decades, John Pappalardo has been committed to the local commercial fishermen’s cause, working in the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance to find modern and sustainable solutions for the future of our fishing.

Pappalardo spent summers on the Cape throughout his childhood, residing year-round in Connecticut. After graduating college, he took a summer off to work on the Cape. While working in Chatham, he was introduced to individuals forming an organization for the local fishermen fleet. He began volunteering for the group in 1995, working on the back of boats as a crew member. His interest grew, gradually attending state and federal regulatory meetings. 

“I never intended to do this work, but I enjoy public policy and helping people find a consensus. It is a broad group of interests, not just on the Cape, but regionally, that all have to agree on regulations. We have found ways to interest people in investing in new technology and science. I think the community on the Cape at large is supportive of commercial fishing. It is part of what makes Cape Cod, Cape Cod,” Pappalardo notes. 

As the years went by, Pappalardo was leading all of the policy work for the organization, and in 2010, he became CEO. At the forefront of his mission is keeping control in the hands of the fishermen, ensuring long-term, sustainable solutions, and focusing on strengthening the next generation. “My goal is to reduce the amount and complexity of regulations that come from managers and to put more of the decision making into the hands of the fishermen,” Pappalardo comments. “Our organization’s goal is to modernize fishing management by providing more data from the fishing vessels themselves so they can contribute in a meaningful way to stock assessments and ecosystem monitoring.” 

In order to optimize a data-rich environment, the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance has worked for the past decade to create a centralized database that will generate reports using electronic monitoring on the vessels. In turn, this shortens the reaction time between management and the fishermen themselves. 

With a board of passionate community members, including active, local fishermen, retirees, or simply those who value the industry, the Fishermen’s Alliance’s policies are driven by the local cause. Pappalardo and staff members often attend council meetings that deliberate new changes. “We then bring that back to the Cape in local meetings with fishermen to share that information and develop a position around it. We try to make it as easy as possible for these working men and women to participate in the regulatory process,” Pappalardo notes. 

The Fishermen’s Alliance is also focused on ensuring the success of future fishermen. The organization is working to secure prolonged access to the seafood off of Cape Cod. In federal waters, fishing permits are limited and are bought and sold between fishermen. The current mission of the Fishermen’s Alliance is to keep these in the hands of local fishermen for years to come, as opposed to large corporations, by purchasing them for the next generation. “We knew that if we did nothing, over time and a generation, those fishermen would sell their permits as they retire and we wouldn’t have as many fishermen on the Cape.”

With dedication to the local cause, Pappalardo ensures the people have a voice and this industry will continue to sustainably thrive at the heart of Cape Cod culture. Our communities at large can feel confident in the local industry’s future with the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance’s dedication and intellect. After all, as Pappalardo says, “it is part of what makes Cape Cod, Cape Cod.”

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Brenna Collins